The National Retail Federation today issued an open letter to President Obama urging him to call for action on initiatives that support a strong retail sector when he delivers his State of the Union address later this month. The letter was signed by Macy’s Chairman, President and CEO Terry Lundgren, who chairs the NRF Board of Directors, and NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

“America’s retailers want to continue growing our economy, but to do that we need Washington to embrace common-sense economic policy, remove barriers to job creation, and do so without asking for more tax dollars to foot the bill,” the letter said.

Shay said the letter, which was sent to the White House Tuesday night, is intended to emphasize the importance of the retail industry in job creation and the economy at a time when most of the jobs rhetoric from Washington focuses on manufacturing. The letter noted that the retail industry supports 42 million American jobs – one in four jobs and four times the number in manufacturing. Retail, he said, is the gateway between other industries and the American consumer.

“Retail is the barometer of our nation’s economy – when the economy is thriving, consumers spend, retailers prosper, and consumer dollars ripple out through each of the economic sectors behind the products and services sold in retail stores,” Shay said. “When Americans are out of work consumers stop spending, retailers stop ordering from manufacturers, and the economy grinds to a halt. To gauge the impact of any economic policy enacted in Washington, one need look no further than the cash register at any Main Street store in America.”

The letter asked Obama to include three key issues in his speech to Congress:

  • sales tax fairness legislation that would ease the burden on Main Street retailers who create local jobs but are under increasing pressure from online competitors who do not have to collect sales tax on most sales;

  • corporate tax reform that would eliminate deductions and credits enjoyed by a few industries in return for lowering tax rates for all businesses, helping retailers lower prices and increase jobs throughout the supply chain from the increased sales that would result; and

  • free and open trade initiatives that would build upon recent Free Trade Agreements and remove protectionist restrictions in future FTAs.

The letter also asked Obama to address neglected transportation infrastructure that slows down supply chains, credit card swipe fees that drive up prices for consumers, and mandates under the health care reform law that threaten to cost workers their jobs. It also asked that the Administration quicken the visa process to make it easier for foreign visitors to come to the United States to shop.

“Congress is well aware of these issues, but as is so often the case in Washington, it takes the power of the presidency to turn a good idea into law,” the letter said. “By calling for action on these items in your State of the Union address, you can play a major role in helping American businesses create the jobs American workers so desperately need.”

The issues are among those addressed in NRF’s Retail Means Jobs and Jobs, Innovation and Consumer Value Agenda. Obama is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on January 24.

As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s Retail Means Jobs campaign emphasizes the economic importance of retail and encourages policymakers to support a Jobs, Innovation and Consumer Value Agenda aimed at boosting economic growth and job creation.